Learn the Lessons
There are several
lessons that United States industry can learn from these developing
country installations. The lessons occur when questions are raised
during these installations that force us to rethink our
methodologies. A few of these lessons are:
a. The critical
decision making resource is rarely the labor resource.
countries are innovative and fast learners. In a recent study where
workers from several countries were asked to learn a new procedure,
a measurement was made of how long the average worker took to learn
the procedure and accomplish it consistently within a certain period
of time. The average learning curve for the United States worker was
about six hours. The average for the Japanese worker was about five
hours. The average for the Mexican employee was about 4.5 hours.
It's not that the Mexican's are somehow smarter. However, it seems
that the developing country worker is more receptive to change, is
more willing to learn, and is not as set in their ways. Learning a
new procedure is treated as a way of live, not an incumbrance to it.
This open mindedness toward change is why companies like Intel are
setting up major research centers in cities like Penang.
c. We need to avoid
being secretive in our business. We need to share our goals with our
employees. They can't achieve a goal that they don't know exists. I
have visited numerous US companies where the employees are not
allowed to see the Business Plan. A Business Plan of this type is as
valuable as having no plan at all.
d. Move from Copy
Catting to Innovating technology.
e. Implement integration instead of Faddism. Programs like JIT, SPC,
or TQM are not fads that come and go. They are stepping stones to
success. These "fads" have long implementation lead times. We need
to stop jumping from one to another. Rather, we need to build on the
first with the second, and then the third, and so on.
f. Understanding is
more important than writing. Our legalistic society places more
precedence on the fine print, than on the mutual understanding. The
result is a NAFTA agreement involving 3 countries that is 2,200
pages long, while the South East Asia APEC trade agreement involving
6 countries is 16 pages long. Compromise is more important than
winning. For example, there is a piece of land that is under dispute
between Malaysia and Thailand. As luck would have it, this piece of
land turned out to be oil rich. The Western solution would be to
punch it out over this piece of land. The Asian solution was to set
up a separate business entity that was responsible for the
development of this region, and then both countries would share in
g. The long term
perspective is more valuable than the short term profits. Much of
our short sightedness is the result of a lack of trust. We have
developed elaborate nontrust systems that cost us more than the
mistakes they were designed to protect us against. This lack of
trust is forcing us to make decisions that are very damaging on the
long term basis. For example, the enormous middle management flush
that has been the fad over the last couple years is turning red
Profit and Loss statements into black. However, I have to wonder if
the talent that has been thrown away is not the same talent that
would have been instrumental to the future success of the
h. Teaming is at
the root of all success. Teaming is the development of a synergistic
and effective group of people. An effective team looks for
value-added benefits for the team, and the organization as a whole.
What we do in the United States is grouping, which is throwing a
group of people together in a room and expecting them to comfortably
share ideas with each other. Grouping does not have the effective
long-term synergistic effect that teaming has.
i. Invite and
welcome continual change. Implement change models that will foster
continuous change, like TQM.
j. Eliminate the
resource waste. Focus on total factor or value added productivity.
countries are more influenced by religious culture than by profit.
They are more motivated by helping society or the family, than by
helping the individual. An employer makes a positive impression on
your work force by helping the worker's children, not by giving the
employee awards or money. The ethical system in many cultures is
societal, not individual. Many things that we consider unethical (or
unfair as my children would say) are very ethical in a culture that
works for the benefit of the whole. In many of these cultures the
relationship that grows out of a business transaction is much more
important than the profit made in the business transaction. I find
it ironic that Ferengi Beach is located in Penang, while the Ferengi
type business ethic (there has to be a profit in every transaction)
is found in the United States (you have to be a fan of Star Trek:
The Next Generation to understand what the Ferengi are).
Most developing countries consider cooperation and compromise as
essential ingredients in doing business. This also involves the
management to employee relationships in a more cooperative
arrangement, including more comparable wages than is typical in the
These are only a
few of the cultural considerations that need to be addressed. Each
country has productivity affecting cultural considerations of its
own that go far beyond the ones already mentioned.
installations challenge many of our basic beliefs on productivity.
These beliefs include the methods of measuring productivity, the
resources used to define productivity, the measurement and
motivation systems used to promote productivity, and the cultural
and ethical basis behind the motivation systems. There are many
lessons that we can learn from these challenging developing country
installations. Hopefully, we can use some of these lessons to
improve our own productivity here in the United States.
For balance of this article, click on the below link:
Lean Manufacturing Articles and go to Series 01